Pa. Senate passes bill to give Legislature power to kill costly regulations

State regulations expected to cost businesses and governments more than $1 million annually would need to get the General Assembly’s endorsement before they could take effect, under a bill the Pennsylvania Senate passed on Tuesday.

Senate Bill 561 would revise the regulatory review process so that the House and Senate must act to adopt economically significant regulations — and could block them by not holding a vote — instead of the current process that allows the Legislature to review and object to regulations, but requires the governor’s signature to quash them.

The bill’s sponsor, state Sen. John DiSanto, R-Dauphin, has said it reinforces the constitution’s balance of powers by giving the Legislature final say on whether regulations comply with the intent of state laws, but Democratic senators and the Wolf administration said it upsets that balance.

Gov. Tom Wolf “has serious concerns with attempts to hinder the executive branch’s ability to enact regulations within the confines of the law to protect Pennsylvanians,” his spokesman said.

The Senate passed the bill with a vote of 29-20 and sent it to the House. The legislation is backed by manufacturing, small business and free-market groups who want to curb costly regulations they say inhibit economic growth.

Last year, the state Independent Regulatory Review Commission, which determines whether regulations are in the public interest and comply with state laws and rule-making requirements, examined 43 final regulations and voted to disapprove three of them.

Some of the regulations adopted last year with estimated costs of more than $1 million applied to things like license fees for private schools, shale gas drilling and evaluations of public water systems for contamination vulnerabilities.

The bill’s opponents say it short-circuits an already robust review process and does not consider a proposed regulation’s economic or social benefits.

“It threatens a scenario where a proposed regulation — one that may be required by state or federal law, or is necessary for the protection of public health and the environment — is invalidated merely through legislative inaction,” the Pennsylvania Environmental Council wrote to senators last week.

The bill also directs the Independent Fiscal Office to verify a proposed regulation’s estimated costs to the public and private sector, which is expected to require the fiscal office to hire additional analysts at a cost of about $275,000 next year.

Laura Legere:

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